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Prosecutors won’t charge ex-Ohio education leader

COLUMBUS, Ohio – Prosecutors have decided not to file charges against Ohio’s former superintendent of schools, who resigned amid ethical questions about his relationship with an educational testing contractor.

Stan Heffner left office last month after the state watchdog released a report that found Heffner had received a job offer from a Texas-based testing firm when he lobbied state lawmakers last year on a bill that benefited the company.

The inspector general’s report also found that Heffner misused his state email and cellphone to communicate with Educational Testing Services and inappropriately had Department of Education employees handle personal matters such as a pending move to Texas and the sale of his house in suburban Columbus.

City and county prosecutors said in a letter received by the inspector general on Monday that they were troubled by the allegations but that they didn’t rise to the level of criminal conduct. They said they agreed with the decision of Inspector General Randy Meyer not to request criminal charges.

The prosecutors made their decision “despite our belief that Mr. Heffner acted inappropriately in both instances,” according to the letter from Lara Baker, chief Columbus prosecutor, and Jeff Blake, assistant county prosecutor.

Heffner said he was relieved by the prosecutors’ decision.

“I never committed a crime and I’m just glad the prosecutors agree with that position,” Heffner said Monday.

“I never intended to hurt anybody. I never intended to profit from anything,” Heffner said. “I had only intended to do my work as interim superintendent, which I did fully, and I now have to just live with the fact that the inspector general issued a report saying what he did.”

Heffner, 60, of suburban Columbus, said he’s enjoying retirement and deciding what comes next, but he said it won’t involve education.

The lobbying allegation arose from testimony Heffner made in May 2011 before the Senate Finance Committee about a bill that would have required additional teacher testing. The testing would be handled by Princeton, N.J.-based Educational Testing Service. At the time of his testimony, Heffner – then interim schools superintendent – had accepted a job offer in ETS’s San Antonio office.

Prosecutors said Heffner should have disclosed the job to the committee. But they noted that the state school board already knew about the job, which had also been announced in a news release.

“In this sense, there are no facts to support an assertion that Hefner had, in any way, been secretly obtained by ETS to give the testimony in question,” the prosecutors wrote.

Prosecutors said Heffner’s use of his state email and cellphone was within allowable personal use. They said his use of employees to help plan his move to Texas was inappropriate but not illegal.

Heffner canceled the move to ETS after he was named full-time superintendent of schools.

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